Northern Ireland news

Killing of 'vulnerable' man in 2001 is focus of renewed appeal

 David Clarke who was killed in 2001

A MAN with learning difficulties who was killed more than a decade ago is the focus of a reopened police investigation after the PSNI said they had received new information.

David Clarke, 26, described by police as "inoffensive and vulnerable", was savagely beaten at his flat in north Belfast in June 2001.

His body was found hours later by concerned friends who forced their way in to the property at Forthriver Road.

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Dickson, leading the renewed inquiry, said he had been an easy target who suffered a vicious death.

"I have been a police officer for 28 years and a murder detective for 13 of those years. Apart from the wounds sustained by gunshot victims, David's injuries are the worst I have seen. This was a frenzied and savage attack," he said.

The murder was carried out between midnight and 4am on June 6 when the killer or killers forced their way in to Mr Clarke's home.

Mr Dickson added: "The individuals in the flat smashed its fixtures and fittings and David's ornaments. We believe David had retreated into his bedroom for safety where he was savagely beaten and died."

In the weeks leading up to his murder, David had been bullied. He did not report the incidents to police but had confided in friends.

"Everyone in the local community knew David," said Mr Dickson. "He knocked about more often with teenagers than people his own age because he felt more comfortable with them because of his learning difficulties.

"He was inoffensive and vulnerable. I believe David was bullied because he was different, nothing else. I believe the bullying went too far and the assault turned into a frenzy."

It is understood a number of people were present in the flat at the time of the assault, including a woman.

Mr Dickson said locals may hold the key to solving the brutal crime.

"The information needed to apprehend David's killer, or killers, lies within the local community at Forthriver and Glencairn," he said.

"The community took David to its heart: people helped to pay for his funeral, his grave is tended to this day by locals and his old flat is now a community centre known locally as Clarke House.

"I am appealing to people in that community to provide us with the information we need to bring the perpetrators to court. Even though there were a number of arrests in the original investigation, there is a sense that this is a forgotten murder.

"It has certainly not been forgotten by police or, probably, by those involved."

The killing has not been linked to paramilitaries. Anyone with information is asked to call the police non-emergency number 101 or use the independent charity Crimestoppers where information can be provided anonymously. 

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